Rail Transport in Australia is a powerful enabler of the economy, the network of which is almost completely state owned. The railway operators however are mostly private. Compared to the size of the continent though, Australia’s rail transport isn’t as large as it could be with a total network of less than 35,000 kms.
Oz Railway Network Issues
As far as freight goes, private rail networks are used for the transport of goods such as suger cane, timber and iron ore. One of the defining features of Australian rail networks is the multiplicity of gauges in use. This is a byproduct of colonial times when a uniform gauge wasn’t a high priority. The problems become obvious when the lines meet – necessitating a change of trains where under normal circumstances, a single train would have been enough. Unfortunately, the solution to this problem isn’t simple with major disagreements between parties regarding who is to be responsible for the payment for unification of gauges.
Compared to roads, rail transport has never received as much attention from the Australian government for various reasons. However, the lack of efficient and extensive rail travel leads to inefficiencies in the transport of freight. A small portion of the Australian rail network is also electrified, and there are several initiatives afoot that seek to improve rail transport in Australia. Whether rail transport in Oz will improve over time remains to be seen, as it mostly comes down to how much political will there is for change.
Rail Transport Passenger Services
Train services connect to the majority of major cities in Australia. Names of trains such as The Ghan, Indian Pacific, Prospector, The Sunlander, and the The Southern Spirit conjure up thoughts of bygone days when the land was opening up to new frontiers.
The Ghan, for example, goes from north to south of Australia, through the very centre of the continent. Two nights are spent on the train when travelling from Darwin – Adelaide, a distance of 2,979 kilometres (1846 miles). Concessions are available for such groups as students, backpackers, and members of the YHA. Some concession fares, however, are only available to Australian citizens.
Rail Australia shows the various railway networks, along with how to check fares, and how to book tickets.
As for the city railway networks – Transperth, Metro Trains (Melbourne), Queensland Rail, City Rail (Sydney), and Adelaide Metro – they all suffer from the usual complaints. That means things like overcrowding, running late, comfort of trains and stations, ticket prices and safety. Metro Trains seems to regularly come out worst in surveys of satisfaction.
Making the Most of the Train in Oz
High Speed Network
A Federal Government report has recommended creating a high speed railway network linking Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. Trains could reach speeds up to 350km/h outside the major cities, and 200km/h within city corridors.
If this long-term project does go ahead it will considerably reduce the travelling time between major east coast cities.